Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Reflections on Viking Fandom

Two recent articles in the Star Tribune have made me think about the nature of Viking fandom.

Last week, Pat Reusse asked why fans were still so negative toward Brad Childress, but so positive toward Gopher coach Tim Brewster.

First, I'm not sure the comparison works well. Reusse uses the generic "Minnesota fans," but the Viking and Gopher fanbases are not necessarily comprised of the same people. Certainly, many Minnesotans root for both teams. But there are also huge groups of die-hard Viking fans that are either indifferent to or luke-warm toward the Gophers. And do the die-hards that would call themselves "Gopher Nation" share the same deep passion for the Purple that Viking die-hards do? The generic "Minnesota fans" distorts the reality that in many ways, it is two very different fanbases reacting to the coaches.

Second, I think Reusse underestimates the intelligence of Viking fans. For example, he writes:

"The Vikings are 7-3 since Childress made the dramatic switch to veteran Gus Frerotte over third-year player Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback. In most situations, a coach making a key move that worked out so well in the win-loss column would be getting credit for his boldness."

The thing is, most Viking fans are smart enough to know the Vikings have often won despite Frerotte, not because of him. We know he's mediocre at best, and that the Vikings aren't really going to advance very far with him at quarterback. We also know that in three seasons, the quarterbacks Childress has brought to start for the team were Tarvaris Jackson, Brooks Bollinger, Kelly Holcomb, and Gus Frerotte. We also know that Childress is largely in control of the offense. So when the Vikings win defensive battles, when the passing game struggles (Frerotte is tied for the league lead in interceptions), we're not exactly going to become enraptured by Childress and his decision to play Gus Frerotte. We're happy the Vikings have been winning, but we recognize that quarterback is still a giant weakness for the team (which is what prevents them from being realistic Super Bowl contenders), and that there's still no long-term quarterback solution. We also recognize that's largely Brad Childress' fault.

This week, Michael Rand suggests that the Vikings should be getting more love than they are:

"And still there is an overwhelming sense of negativity toward this team. [...] Comments on game stories, even victories, are overwhelmingly negative."

"this team seems worthy of more love than it’s getting. Maybe it’s time to get over personal grudges and negativity and start enjoying a legitimate winning season."

I can't help but think that when I think "Viking fan" and when Michael Rand thinks "Viking fan," we're thinking of two different things. I say that not as a criticism--it's very understandable. You see, Rand (and Reusse, for that matter) are obviously widely exposed to readers of the Star Tribune. I think Rand probably often encounter the views of general Minnesota sports fans--people who follow sports, who root for the local teams, who watch the Vikings and want them to win but are also perhaps more casual about it. And I think that person might be different than, say, a fan that blogs about the Vikings in his free time, or fans that read a lot of their Viking commentary from Viking blogs and Viking message boards, from fans that attend a lot of games and feel emotionally moved by wins and losses. That's not to say Rand doesn't know about us die-hards, but the questions he asks in his post suggest (to me, anyway) that he's thinking about the more general "Minnesota fan" that likes the Vikings. Because as a Viking blogger, my encounters with Viking fans usually seem to be of the die-hard variety. Sure, there's negativity (and maybe too much of it). But here's the key point: nobody is ever going to question whether we're not giving enough love to the Purple. I mean, I blog primarily about the Vikings 12 months a year. If you're a Viking fan reading this, you probably also read other Viking blogs, and you probably spend a lot of time thinking about the Vikings too. If anything, we can be accused of devoting too much love to the Vikings.

Now, maybe I'm just misreading Rand's word choices of "heart" and "love." But it doesn't seem to me that a person asking those questions is really thinking about the die-hard Viking fans (again, that's not a criticism--I'm just exploring here). If people ask me "where are the Vikings in your heart?," they probably mean something like "Do you rank the Vikings ahead of your family, your career, and your religion?" In other words, they certainly don't mean "why don't you love the Vikings more?"


  1. Anonymous10:49 PM

    Saying the Vikings should get more love is like saying George Bush should get more love. I'm not at all a bleeding heart liberal, but the media and majority of society doesn't give GW any love. Just as the entire Sports Media and the majority of Vikings fans really don't give the Vikings much love(Sports Media if any). But die hard Vikings fans truly love the Vikings, just as Right Conservatives liked GW (to some extent), but one just doesn't hear about it. Love for the Vikings is there, but it really isn't! Just the way things are, until a Super Bowl win?

  2. Anonymous10:57 PM

    PV's head is going to explode...a comparison of the Vikings to George Bush? That's too much to handle.

  3. Two things:

    1. Vikings: I completely agree, we give them plenty of love. Who in their right mind would CHOOSE to be a vikings fan? Seriously? We have contending teams from time to time, boatloads of talented/hall of fame caliber players come through this organization, and we can't win the big game. We get constant scruitiny and zero respect from fans of NFL teams, because of a lack of a superbowl ring to call our own, and we play in a stadium that is less to be desired.

    2. GW: I'm really unhappy you brought this up. Politics is something that should not be mentioned in football. Say what you want about GW, but the media hated him, and turned a country against him. If you've been around any length of time you would realize that the media does this to EVERY REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT. They did it to Reagan and he is considered one of the best presidents this country had, especially in economic growth and ending the cold war. The tried to crucify that man while he sat in office.

    This can be applied to both topics of the vikings and GW:


  4. I don't want to get into a whole political discussion here, but I really wish this media that hates Bush so much might have showed more criticism, scrutiny, and analysis while Bush was promoting support for the Iraq War. Before the war and during the early phases of the war, much of the media was basically cheerleading.

    Bush didn't need the media to turn the country against him: he did that himself. Specifically, what Americans looked at Bush's response (or lackthereof) to the Hurricane Katrina disaster and thought "There's a competent, intelligent, compassionate, hard-working leader that's doing all he can to get through this crisis?" No, Bush turned the country against him with his consistent incompetence and botched policies.

    Now, I too don't want to get into a lengthy political discussion (on this blog--there are other places for that). But if you want to defend Bush and blame the media for his problems (blaming the media for failed policies is an old strategy--certainly it was a staple of the Vietnam war era), I'll feel compelled to respond.

  5. It's not so much that I'm pro-bush, I think he screwed up in other areas as well such as the immigration problem by proposing amnesty, lack of focus on afghanista, and others. But here's how I see it: The people are just as much to blame.

    Like I've said about Obama, even though I didn't vote for him, I'm going to do what I can as a citizen to help him succeed as president, because that will help my country succeed, and make my life easier as a citizen. Can you honestly say that was the train of thought and reasoning by the media and other democrats who did not vote for bush?

    He did a bad job, but the people did nothing on their end to make the situation any better except point fingers.

  6. It depends on what you mean by "help." Sometimes, if a leader is doing something bad, citizens and media should be antagonistic. It's not necessarily a good thing for people/media to "support" a leader--if you think a leader's policies will be bad for the country, you should say so. But that's getting into a different type of discussion, I guess.

  7. I completely agree with you there, remaining agnostic is key, but when you sacrafice the well-being of this country in your own personal decisions only to help your personal agenda of criticizing or demonizing a president then that is just going too far. Many liberals in this country went too far. There's many things to blame for the problems we face today, not just one man.

  8. You are inferring motives: I don't know the motivations of every Bush critic (and neither do you), so it seems pretty speculative.

    It also appears to be a strategy of distraction: by challenging the motivations of those that point out Bush's flaws, one can avoid discussing those flaws.